Vegan Meal Planning Adventures

October 5, 2010 by Keri

“You know, Keri, adding the word “adventures” to something doesn’t actually make it more exciting…”  I know, but meal planning is exciting!  Imagine never coming home after a long day and wondering, “What the heck am I going to make?”, never searching the pantry to put together an adequate meal in your already exhausted mind, and never starting a recipe only to realize you’re missing half the ingredients you originally thought you had.  That’s what I would imagine every time I’d read one of the many posts about meal planning on my favorite blogs.  I’m sure if you’ve written a planning post, I’ve commented on it saying I need to start planning.  By the time Jess posted about meal planning on her blog, The Domestic Vegan, it was time for me to shut up and actually try it!  Cute things tend to motivate me, so I asked my husband to make me a nice, simple I Eat Trees meal planner.  While I was still excited over my awesome I Eat Trees meal planners, I printed one off, grabbed a couple cookbooks from my desk, and sat down at my dining room table to get started.

Vegan Meal Planning

First, I wrote in breakfasts.  The little man eats variations of the same thing every week day, and since he literally wakes up talking about eating a banana for breakfast, who am I to deprive him of that?  On weekends, I spend a little bit more time in the kitchen, including nice family breakfast treats such as cinnamon rolls or muffins, so I picked out Saturday and Sunday’s recipes and wrote those in with a title, cookbook, and page number.  Next I started planning individual days, choosing a meal for dinner and then a lunch that was quicker and dissimilar.  And since both my husband and my little man are huge snack fanatics, I was sure to write in those little extras under my snacks section.  Once I had everything “planned” in neat little squares, I went through the recipes and made a shopping list of all the items I needed.  Let’s just say it was a long list.

Vegan Meal Planning

So far, I’ve really been loving meal planning.  It’s so nice to just “know” what’s for dinner on any given night. I can’t say planning saved me any money on this first round; I somehow managed to spend way more than what I normally would on groceries, but I’m sure I’ll learn over time.  When I make my list, I’ve already learned it’s very helpful to put in amounts I’m going to need, rather than just the item.  I know that sounds very elementary, but I’ve always just written “mushrooms” on my list. Really? How many? It could be one cup or it could be five cups!  Especially when I’m dealing with a whole week’s worth of ingredients, it’s hard to remember how much of an ingredient each recipe called for or if that ingredient is in more than one dish.  I’m actually excited to start working on next week’s meal plan, and I know it will just get easier over time!  I’ll post again in the future on my progress and lessons learned.

Do you meal plan?  If so, do you think it saves you time and money?  If not, is it something you’d consider or is it, “No way, I love eating what I want and when I want it”?

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I Eat Trees is a blog featuring my adventures in all things vegan. My favorite recipes, snack food finds, and restaurant trials are all on the menu so enjoy!


  1. Anna says:

    I used to meal plan but it has kind of fallen to the side of late, should really get back to it to avoid the ten to five ‘what the hell am I going to make for dinner tonight’ panics… However, I can’t plan in advance what night we’re going to eat something, I don’t know what I feel like eating until a few hours before I’m going to eat it, sometimes not until I get in the kitchen to cook, having a set plan for each day wouldn’t work at all for me. My Mother used to make a list of meals for the month and shop from it, like me though, she didn’t write down what day we were having stuff, she picked from the list each day what to make instead.

    • Keri says:

      That’s a good idea too. I have noticed it really limits my creativity because I don’t do much “inventing” when I have everything completely planned.

  2. Rachel J says:

    Yep, because of my work schedule and veganism, I have to plan meals or hubby and I would go hungry! We wing it on weekends, but every Sunday I make a menu for Monday through Friday and place an order with Fresh Direct (grocery delivery) for Monday morning. I work 3 to 7:30 weekdays, so having the kitchen stocked with everything I need to whip up a dinner quickly when I’m done working is essential!

  3. cleaninggirl says:

    I’ve always since going vegan planned my meals a week in advance when I go shopping so I know what’s there and what I need to get for the weeks meals. I did however get thrown off my meal making plans when I got a cold last week and could barely eat all week I lived off pancakes for a good few days as well as scrambled tofu and soup.
    I tend to stock up on basics every once in awhile so I know I’ve got plenty of some of the basics like flour, nutritional yeast, vegan worstershire sauce, cheese sauce, egg replacer, soya milk ect.
    I would plan futher in advance if I had more freezer & fridge space but because I live with my family (who are all omnivores) I don’t have alot space available for me to use.

    • Keri says:

      I hear you on throwing out the plan when you don’t feel well. I did that tonight! I was planning to make sushi, but I just didn’t feel well enough!

  4. Kelly says:

    I used to plan out the whole week. Over the last year this has seriously gone away. I tend to plan out the weekends since I have more time to cook. The week days end up being either leftovers or what we call “every man for himself”. This is easy in the summer because a big salad does the trick but not so much in the winter. I like your idea of making a planner. I’ll be borrowing that idea if you don’t mind.

    • Keri says:

      Of course I don’t mind! 🙂 I tend to plan a lot more on the weekends too simply because I have more time.

  5. I have never meal planned, but i think i might try it. Knowing what you are going to make also helps you prep the night before. I also tend to just get up and fix a snack randomly and then end up either not hungry for dinner or used up everything to make dinner!

    An upside would be not over eating, more prep time, and cute planners 🙂

    The only downside i see is when you are in the mood for something other than what you planned.

    • Keri says:

      Yeah, there was a whole lot less snacking randomly because I was like, “Don’t touch that! I need that for *** recipe!” 😛

  6. Keri says:

    If anyone wants to download an I Eat Trees meal planner form, they’re available in the post through the “I Eat Trees meal planner” link. 🙂 Fun!

  7. Sava says:

    Before I go grocery shopping I write out probably 3 or 4 meals I want to make that week and make sure I have the ingredients. Then I get odds and ends that I can whip up in a jiffy, like Thai bowls and rice and bread for toast. I think it really does help me save money because I’m not spending money on things that I ‘may possible decide to make’, and just letting the food go to waste.

  8. James says:

    I live pretty close to a grocery store so when I need a certain ingredient I just pop out and get it. If that weren’t true I’d probably plan more.

  9. Jessi says:

    I have been meal planning this way for YEARS! I sit down every sunday and write it all out and write my grocery list. It will cost you more the first few times when you are using cookbook recipes because you are buying some obscure ingredients you don’t use much of each time. But in the long run you will save money and learn to base your weekly recipes off of it. Say you needed a tablespoon of Sesame Oil, next week be sure to cook at least 2 meals that involve sesame oil.
    The quantity thing will totally save you! Especially when you are shopping for the whole week. And make sure you are planning for that. If you can’t control the quantity of something make sure you have a meal coming up behind it that can use the remainder of whatever is left over before it goes bad.
    It takes some trial and error, but you will get there!!!

    • Keri says:

      Thank you for such an encouraging comment! It’s so helpful! I’m about to plan next week so I’ll definitely take these tips into account.

    • Jess - The Domestic Vegan says:

      YES! This is exactly what I was going to say. I’m not *too* surprised that you didn’t save money this first go-round (though that’s a bummer), since it’s fun to look in cookbooks & pick out ALL the recipes that look good. But over time, I’ve learned to incorporate staples that are already in my pantry into the week’s meals, and sometimes that means forgoing a recipe that looks really tasty for one that utilizes more ingredients that I want/need to use up! Then I’ll bookmark that tasty-looking recipe for the next time I’m okay with spending a little more for the ingredients I’ll need.

      I’ve also started writing amounts next to the produce & bulk items on my list. It’s really helpful! Like you, I used to just put “carrots,” and then I’d either buy way too many or not enough!

  10. Amanda says:

    Totally a meal planning fanatic! Makes food shopping SO much easier and so much less impulsive – and keeps the week nights stress free!

  11. I plan too – so I’m not getting stressed at 4pm when both kids are starting to go crazy. Cooking with them underfoot is tough enough; it helps to not have to think of what to cook at the same time.

    I’ve also learned to write amounts on my list. I would write ‘beans’ but not know if I needed a whole bag/can/etc.

    • Keri says:

      Haha, I definitely know what you mean about cooking with kids under foot. Time-sensitive recipes that need 100% of your attention become tricky! 😛

  12. Sarah says:

    Thanks for sharing the lovely meal planning grid! Finally, another person who thinks meal planning is exciting! Honestly, what’s not to love? Besides being economical, it’s one of the best ways to take control of your health–and your impact on your community and the environment. Somehow, I always end up grabbing “fast food” (usually something from the deli and bakery at Whole Foods) when I’m not jotting down my plans for the coming week…

    • Keri says:

      You’re welcome! 🙂 I often ended up making strange meals just to use ingredients I’d grabbed on impulse!…

  13. stephanie a. says:

    I agree with what Jessi said…over time, you start saving money, and as you mention in the OP you just get better at buying the right quantities of things. Here is my first menu adventure (just a week ago!):

    And I didn’t stick to it perfectly (as one who read the subsequent posts would figure out), but we did more or less. It sure was nice to have a grocery list based on something instead of just pulling it out of my rear!

    I’m hoping that over time I’ll get the hang of cooking for two and not have to rely on a menu.